God’s Design for the Family: The Role of the Husband – Ephesians 5:25-33

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Faith Bible Church, NY

December 8, 1996

God’s Design for the Family:

The Role of the Husband

Ephesians 5:25-33

Well, gentlemen, this morning it is your turn. Last week we explained God’s design for the family and the role of the wife. This morning we are going to look at the role that God has given to you husbands. Let me remind you of a couple of things before we get into the heart of this study.

First, ladies, last week I asked the men to refrain from poking you in the side or taking notes on your failures to that they could criticize you later. Instead, I asked them to pay attention so that they would know how to pray for you and encourage you in your God given role. I am asking you to do the same for them this week. Remember what I pointed out last week from 1 Peter 3 that even if your husband is disobedient to the word, you are to win him without a word by your chaste and respectful behavior, not through nagging. Consider how you might pray for him and encourage him.

Second, remember that marriage is more about the glory of God than it is about the two people that are married. The purpose of marriage has a divine objective. I pointed this out from Eph. 5:31,32, “31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Your marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His relationship to the church. Your marriage is to bring glory to God.

What then are the roles of the husband and wife? What are their responsibilities? What should each do that they might bring glory to God through their marriage. Follow along in Eph. 5:22-33.

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.

A reminder again that this is impossible to do without being filled with the Holy Spirit. That is the context of our passage. Walking in wisdom and not foolishness. Making the most of the short time you have here on earth. Being in submission to the Holy Spirit and to one another. The wife as a major responsibility in willingly subjecting herself to her husband’s headship, to follow his leadership, and to show him respect. The husband has a major responsibility in loving his wife.

Notice that in this passage the husband is commanded to love his wife three different times. Verses 25, 28 and 33. Gentlemen, I will propose to you to start with that for the most part, if you fulfill your role, your wife will fulfill hers because it is easy to submit to and respect someone that truly loves you. What kind of love are you to demonstrate to her? Paul gives three parallel examples to help you understand.

Love her like Christ loved the church.

Cherish her like you cherish your own body.

Lover her as you love yourself.


The primary love we are to show to our spouse is to parallel the love Jesus Christ has for the church. That is a standard impossible to reach without a close walk with the Holy Spirit. You can not do this in your own power. No, it does not sound very romantic and I do not suggest you say this to your wife if you want her to feel emotionally close to you, but the greatest love you can give to her is when you become the channel of God’s love to her. You love her not because of how pretty she is, for all the wonderful things she does for you, for how smart she is and the great life partner she has turned out to be – all that is wonderful and you should tell her those things very often – but your greatest reason for loving her is because God has placed it in your heart to do so.

The ability of a man and woman to truly love each other has also been perverted by our sin natures. The result is that our love for one another ends up having a basis in selfishness and pride. When we tell someone we love them because of their beauty or how they please us, we are in reality declaring that our love is dependent on our own selfish pleasure. I love you because you please me. Again, I am not saying that you should not tell your wife how much she pleases you, but I am saying that the love God wants you to have for your wife is much greater than that. Notice the components of Jesus’ love for the church in vs. 25-27 are sacrifice and holiness.

SACRIFICIAL: Vs. 25 – “and gave Himself up for her.” There is no greater love possible than laying down your life for a friend (John 15:13), and that is exactly what Jesus did for the church. That is why the Scriptures continually point to Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross as the proof of God’s love for us – as Paul says in Rom. 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is a love that is centered in the best interest of the other person and not in yourself. It is self-less rather than selfish.

Gentlemen, do you love your wife in this manner? No, because none of us do. At best we can say that we strive too and that we are learning too. I am not saying that most of us would not quickly put ourselves in the line of danger and protect our wife from death or injury, but I am saying that our love for her still tends to be more selfish than sacrificial.

Let me give you a couple of examples to prod your thinking about this.

1) Your wife calls you to dinner and you find that she has cooked one of those “experiments” – or maybe something you do not really care for. What is your reaction? Are you thankful for her service to you or are you more concerned about what you are going to eat.

2) You have been planning some event with your friends for sometime – maybe you’re going fishing, hunting or watching an important football game. When the day arrives, your wife has the flu. She looks and feels like death. How do you feel about the prospect of staying home and taking care of her and the kids?

3) Your busy reading the paper or watching your favorite sporting competition and your wife sits down and says, “honey, I have a problem.” Do you A) Get excited that she thinks so highly of you that she wants your help, B) Want her to go away and leave you alone, or C) Get a chill running down your spine that you could be in trouble?

4) You have listened to your wife’s problem and given her a very intelligent and logical solution, but she keeps talking about it. Do you think: A) Why doesn’t she just thank me and leave me alone now, B) She’s a bit dense today or C), Wow, this problem has really affected her. I wonder how else I can encourage her and let her know that I care?

Gentlemen, to love your wife the way Christ loved the church requires you to sacrifice yourself for her. There is a price you will have to pay. You will have to be humble and learn to put her best interests over your own, but isn’t that what we are called to be as Christians anyway? Phil. 2:3,4 commands us to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

HOLINESS: One of the interests that should be at the forefront in your love for your wife is her holiness. Look at verses 26 and 27. Jesus sacrificed Himself for the church so that He might sanctify her. He wanted her to be all that she could and should be. Without spot or wrinkle, being holy and blameless. That is accomplished through the challenge of living according to the Bible.

Husband, what are you doing in terms of promoting holiness in your wife. Are you leading her to church or is this one of those things you do because it makes her happy. Do you lead her in personal Bible study – both by your own example and in family devotions. Do you pray together other than to say grace before a meal? Does your own walk with the Lord give her a positive example to follow. Does your wife see Jesus Christ living in you? What you do here will make a big difference in her spiritual walk.

If your wife is a professing believer you can certainly do a lot more than if she is not, but even if she is not you are still responsible to lead her spiritually. You will not be able to say as much because you do not share the same interests, but your life had better demonstrate the reality of Christ and what you do say had better be the truth spoken with love. Your walk with the Lord and how you treat her should do one of three things. 1) Attract her to salvation in Christ. 2) Drive her away because of her rejection of Christ – again, be sure it is Christ in you that drives her away and not you! 3) She thinks you’re a crazed fanatic, but she stay with you anyway because she loves you and knows no other man would treat as well as you do.

If you do not lead her into holiness then you will be leading her away from it, and that will wear even on a godly woman. An example of that is found in the life of Mark Twain. As a young man he fell in love with a beautiful Christian girl named Livy and married her. Being devoted to the Lord, she wanted a family altar and prayer at meals after she and Twain were married. This was done for a time and then one day Twain said, “Livy, you can go on with this by yourself if you want to, but leave me out. I don’t believe in your God and you’re only making a hypocrite out of me.” Fame and affluence came. There were court appearances in Europe. Twain and Livy were living well and Livy strayed farther and farther from her early devotion to the Lord. When an hour of bitter need came, Mark Twain said to her, “Livy, if your Christian faith can help you now, turn to it.” Livy replied, “It can’t; I haven’t any; it was destroyed a long time ago.”

You may not destroy the faith of your wife by your unbelief – whether stated or just lived in practice. But you will hinder her. God’s design for the family is for you to lead in holiness and He will hold you responsible for it. This is part of what you are to provide your family. To borrow a phrase from Stu Webber’s book, Tender Warrior, you are not to just be a provide provisions such as food and shelter, but you are to be a provisionary – you are looking ahead to see what will be needed in every area of your families life. You are to see the bigger picture and have a vision of where your family is going – both in this life and for eternity. You set the long term goals and then lead and direct in the steps that will take your family to that destination.

If you are not having some sort of devotional time together, let me give you some suggestions to get started.

1) Discuss the sermons over dinner. 2) Discuss what you learned in your own devotional time when you eat together. 3) Keep a devotional book at your dinner table and read and discuss it while you eat. 4) Read the Bible or Christian books to each other before you go to sleep or whenever else you have time together.


You are to love your wife as Christ loves the Church. You are also to cherish her as you do your own body – verse 28,29. “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body.”

It is a simple fact that no one hates his own flesh. We may get disappointed at times by our physical limitations, or envious of other people’s abilities, but even with that we do not hate our own flesh, just desire it to be better. We all nourish and cherish our bodies. You don’t believe me? Just start adding up the time and money we spend on feeding, caring for and making our bodies comfortable. There is all the time you spend eating, sleeping, exercising, cleaning and getting your body look decent. There is all the money you spend on food, health care, beauty products and things to make your body comfortable – like air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.

And let’s not forget that when it comes to eating I doubt any of us have ever met someone who will eat something they do not like to punish themselves. We might eat something that tastes bad if we believe it will help our body, but for the most part we always are looking for something that will please our palates. We cherish our bodies.

Husband, do you cherish your wife as much as you do your own body? Do you give her as much consideration as you do to what you eat? Do you spend as much time with her as you do eating and exercising? Are you as concerned as much about your relationship with her as how you look?

Paul again brings in the example of Jesus Christ at the end of vs. 29 and vs. 30. He cares for His church because we are members of His body. A husband is to care for his wife because she is part of him. We may not understand all of what it means in the quote from Genesis 2:24 repeated here in verse 31, but there is definitely some aspect in which the two individuals have become one flesh in marriage. In marriage he is part of her and she is part of him. So even from a more selfish point of view, for the man to love his wife is really to love himself – as Paul states at the end of verse 28.

Think about that a moment men. Is there anything that you could do for your wife that would not ultimately come back to you for your benefit? Certainly there are some exceptions in women that are so self-centered that they are not fit to live with, but in general is it not true that if you treat your wife well, she will also treat you well? If you give consideration to her she will also do the same for you. If you lead her in all godliness she will be a more godly woman. If you love her as the scripture says here she will be able to much more easily fulfill her role in submitting to your leadership and showing you respect. If you demonstrate sacrificial love to her she is much more apt to sacrificially love you too.

Love your wife as Christ loved the church. Cherish her as you cherish your own body.


Paul’s third command to love your wife is in verse 33 – “Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself.”

The arguments here are really the same. Everyone loves themselves. One of the more foolish things foisted upon our society by psychology is this whole notion about the importance of self-esteem – the idea that for you to accomplish something you have to feel good about yourself. In reality the term as used by modern society is really nothing more than another word for sinful pride. Certainly there is importance in developing confidence in order to reach goals, but that confidence does not even have to be in yourself. It could be in someone else. As Christians, our confidence needs to be in God that He is able to accomplish His will through us – as feeble and failing as we may be.

There is no lack and has never been a lack of self-esteem in the human race. Instead it is just the opposite. Humans are by nature self-centered and proud. We love ourselves. The Bible uses that fact as a prod to get us to understand that we need to love others. The general command given by Jesus in several different passages is that we are to love our neighbor as oursevles. Here Paul applies that directly to every husband. You are to love your wife as you do yourself.

Do you love yourself? No question about it because this encompasses not only all the things you do to take care of your body but also all the things you do to satisfy your ego. Men, we are to love our wives with the same intensity and devotion as whatever it is that gives you the sense of who you are – work, sports accomplishments, acclaim of others, friends, finances, etc. However, you don’t demonstrate your love for your wife by working so hard to earn the money to give her a nice home to live in. Men, when your commitment to work strangles your personal relationship with her because you have no time and/or energy left to be involved with her, then you are working because you love yourself and the sense of importance work gives you. You are not doing it because you love her. And I will add that if you do have one of those women that demand a high standard of living and your are killing yourself to give it to her, you are still not loving her. She needs you to lead her in holiness, not materialism – whether she wants it or not.

Love her the way Christ loved the church – sacrificially.

Love her the way you cherish your own body – tenderly.

Love her the way you love yourself – thoughtfully.


If time add here the command Peter gives husbands in 1 Peter 3:7. “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

According to knowledge – you will not understand her, she may seem irrational. Your job to learn what her responses and actions really mean.

Weaker vessel – 1 Tim. 2:14 – the emotional makeup that can lead her into being deceived.

You are not superior, she is your equal, just different – a fellow heir of the grace of life.

Your own walk with the Lord is hindered if you disobey the Lord in this area.

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